Global Climate Change: Effects and Mitigation Strategies

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  • 1:35 Extreme Weather Patterns
  • 2:31 Heat-Related Disasters
  • 3:08 Sea Levels Rise
  • 4:04 Worldwide Extinctions
  • 4:44 Finding Solutions
  • 6:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

In this video lesson, you will learn about the potential effects of global climate change. You will also learn how some are working to better understand climate change in order to slow the rate of temperature increase on Earth.

The Changing Climate on Earth

Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree: we are drastically altering life on Earth and creating global climate change. The cause of this change? Human activities that increase emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and ozone. Greenhouse gases are important because, when present in the right amount, they trap heat under the atmosphere and keep Earth hospitable.

However, in the last century, greenhouse gas emissions have risen to unprecedented levels in the atmosphere. The current concentrations are far too high and are trapping too much heat on Earth. This leads to an overall increase in the temperature of the planet, which affects many other components of our global climate system.

Over the past 100 years, the temperature of Earth has increased by an average of 1.5°F. This may not sound like a lot, but think about your body temperature. A healthy temperature is 98.6°F. If you raise this by 1.5 degrees, you would then have a temperature of 100.1°F. That's a fever and a pretty sick person!

If you've ever had a fever like this, you know how awful it feels. You're hot and cold, you don't have an appetite and you just want to lie in bed until you get better. Now, take into account that this is the average temperature change on Earth. That means that some places are experiencing much greater changes than just those 1.5 degrees.

Extreme Weather Patterns

People tend to associate global climate change with just increasing temperatures, but much like your body goes through cycles of extreme hot and cold during a fever, the earth experiences something very similar. As mentioned before, temperatures on Earth have increased in the past 100 years like never before, and in that period, 10 of the warmest years on record have occurred since 1997.

Not only do temperatures become more extreme, but storms and weather events also increase in severity as temperature rises on Earth. Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy are both examples of extraordinary hurricanes, while Oklahoma was recently devastated by a mile-wide tornado. Why are these storms so much more intense? They get their energy from warm water and wind, and since both of these are becoming warmer along with the earth, this gives the storms more power and the ability to cause more damage.

Heat-Related Natural Disasters

In addition to storms, other natural disasters are becoming more frequent and severe. In 2013, Colorado was shocked by a raging wildfire like never before. Dangerous forest fires have also taken their toll on the Southwest U.S. and California, killing people and causing extensive damage. These fires are the result of drier conditions and extended summer seasons.

And, speaking of drier conditions, droughts have also become more prevalent as Earth heats up because warmer temperatures mean more moisture evaporates from land. These extreme droughts have caused economic hardships for farmers and ranchers worldwide.

Sea Level Rise

What happens when things heat up? They melt! Polar ice caps and glaciers are certainly no exception to this. Of all the fresh water on Earth, more than 2/3 is stored in frozen ice caps and glaciers.

As they melt into the oceans, they increase the overall volume of liquid, which has to go somewhere. Unfortunately, that somewhere is the land that many people call home. Since the extreme warming of the earth started 100 years ago, sea levels have risen almost 7 inches. Again, this may not sound like much, but think about this: around the world, about 100 million people live within 3 feet of sea level.

If the rate of increase were holding steady, 7 more inches in another 100 years might not be so bad. But, considering the rate of sea level rise in the past 10 years was twice the rate of the past century, we are likely going to lose more than another seven inches of land!

Worldwide Extinctions

Many plants and animals also make their homes along shorelines. These species are uniquely adapted to their environments, and with rising sea levels, they will be forced to move inland or may simply go extinct, meaning they will be gone from Earth forever. As the polar ice caps and glaciers melt, other animals, such as polar bears and arctic birds, are also at risk of extinction.

In tropical areas, coral reefs provide critical habitat for hundreds of species, but warmer ocean temperatures are killing the vegetation that helps coral survive. Bird migration routes are drastically changing as they search for cooler climates, and many species that are not able to migrate will simply die in the hotter weather.

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